For decades, the talk among balloon entertainers has always been about how to twist a balloon in extreme heat. Yet few conversations talk about twisting balloons in extreme cold. This past weekend I had the opportunity to twist balloons in 36-degree temperatures, with winds between 10-20, with the occasional gusts to 30, miles per hour.
The key to any outside event is dressing for the weather. It is not a fashion show. It is about keeping warm. Double the shirts and socks, and long underwear are mandatory clothing. Thinsulate boots, down jacket, and a wool sweater are some of my favorite clothing to survive working in the cold.
Being raised in Chicagoland, the weather fluctuates with the wind. Just give the weather some time and it will change, so outside events are always, always unpredictable. Days prior to this event, subzero temperatures plunged into the negative double digits, and as the event neared the temperature climbed.
I found my equipment, a Peewee Pump, works without problems in the cold. Any metal items, scissors, paint markers, and the pump nozzle are cold to the touch. At one point, I thought I would take off my fingerless gloves and brave the cold. I quickly realized my pump nozzle was extremely cold and keeping the gloves on was a wiser option.
I made sure that I avoided the wind tunnel areas, and positioned myself with my back to the wind. Since I was required to be outside, I figured I needed some protection from the wind.
The crowds were steady and happy. Interestingly the audience was mostly small kids with parents. The teenagers must have opted to stay home and play video games instead of heading out in the cold winter air.
Things I would Do Differently in the Cold
- I would request a wind barrier. A tent with a backdrop, just to break the wind, reduces outside temperatures dramatically.
- A corrugated box to stand on is an old sports stadium trick to keep feet warm. Put a broken box under your feet to create a barrier between the cold, damp ground and your feet. It really works.
- Request a corrugated box “carpet runner” to be at least 15 feet long allowing the people in line an insulation barrier from the frozen ground.
Things to Avoid While Twisting Balloons in the Cold
- I learned from the Canadian-produced television program Survivorman that filling your bladder with liquid only makes you colder in the end. So avoid drinking that free hot chocolate until the very end of the gig. Nothing is worse than having to go to the bathroom while standing in the freezing cold.
- Assuming the weather is warmer than it actually is and not dressing properly. Days earlier I had my down-filled snow pants on, but since the temperature was no longer subzero, I chose not to wear them. Mistake. Put them on. It is much easier to take a layer of clothing off then it is to find a layer of clothing to put on.
- Windy areas. The wind can quickly lower body temperature, so make sure the area you are working in is protected and is not the wind corridor.
Things That Keep You Warm
- Down Jacket
- Long Underwear
- Thermal socks
- Thinsulate Boots
- Gold Gym fingerless workout gloves – just make sure you cut off any extra strings around the fingers. This will prevent you from twisting your gloves into the design.
- Hood on Jacket – Hats are nice, but you need a good wind blocker and a down-filled jacket hood works wonders.
- Ear muffs – Keeps your ears warm. If you need to pull off the jacket hood, your ears will stay warm.
- Good Sunglasses – Keeps your face warm and reduces eye strain caused by glare from the snow.
6 thoughts on “Twisting Balloons in the Bitter Cold”
Hi Dale! Thank you for posting this valuable information. Not quite that cold here in East Tennessee but surprisingly we did have below freezing weather.
How do the balloons react to this cold? I know the heat makes them soft – just wondering about that kind of extreme cold on the latex.
I hope your crowd was sympathetic to your conditions… last year I was face painting outside & had to stop because the paint was almost freezing (of course it would, it’s diluted with water)… my crowd was heartless they wanted me to make some kind of magic so their little kids with the frozen cheeks could get painted!
Thanks for sharing!
The balloons held up just fine. They inflated a little thinner than normal, and if you let the air out, they stayed over inflated. I did notice that when I tried to force the air to the end of the balloon, it was difficult. The best example I can give is that the “regular balloons” felt more like metallic balloons. Stiffer, thinner, and took a little more muscle to manipulate. I personally found it easier to work with the balloons in the cold than on extreamly hot days. I just had to get used to fingerless gloves. :0)
When I twisted outside on a cold day the first thing I learned was to use a pump rather than to mouth inflate. If you fill a balloon with body temperature air and tie it off, it will shrink before you can manipulate it. The air pumped in is already cool and won’t contract. The balloons were brittle and I had much more breakage than in more forgiving weather.
These are some great tips. However, you have to be careful when doubling up on layers of clothing. Make sure you’re wearing LOOSE layers. If not you’ll end up sweating and being even colder than when you started-not to mention possibly getting sick. 🙁
I usually put a few hand warmers in my pockets. While a customer is deciding what goody they want, I warm up my hands.
You are a braver man than I! Since you can’t control the weather, you never know when a cold snap will invade an outdoor gig. You give some great tips to make the experience bearable. Thanks.